by Saraj Gottstein
As a clinical therapist who mostly specializes in trauma work, the components of my job include being a critical thinker, creating spaces that increase awareness, and building relationships. The past two months have been an eye-opening explosion of confronting implicit biases, racial injustice and inequalities, and my own personal privilege that is embedded in the work that I do. I have had to confront myself with my own critical thinking to increase my awareness.
As a trauma therapist, my job is to support people in safely navigating the impacts of how trauma has lived out in one’s life and to work to heal the wounds that trauma inflicts. I have had to ask myself; how can I truly support the people whom I work with if I am not able to see, understand, acknowledge the racial discrimination that so many of my clients have been enduring? How am I seeing this whole person, meeting them where they are at, or truly doing the therapeutic work if I don’t address race? I think the answer is, I am not.
It is time for me to own my unacknowledged unnamed privilege that has unconsciously supported structural racism. I don’t know the answers, but I do know we need to be asking ourselves deeply critical questions that pertain to the impacts of structural discrimination, racist policy, and embedded implicit biases. I have been asking myself to lean in, get really uncomfortable, address the shame and fear; these questions are all too similar to those that I ask my clients to engage with.
I have looked to teachers, thinkers, seekers, questioners on many information platforms; and one of my greatest take aways today is from one of my favorite teachers in the field, Brene Brown- she writes on this subject, “I am not here to be right, I am here to get it right”. I am committed to leaning in to get it right.
“The work of anti-racism is becoming a better human to other humans” -Austin Channing Brown
Ibram X. Kendi, author of several books including : “ How to Be an Anti-Racist”, “Stamped”, and “The Anti-Racist Baby” https://www.ibramxkendi.com/books-1
Austin Channing Brown author of “I am still here; Black Dignity in a world made for whiteness”. http://austinchanning.com/
Resmaa Menakem author of “My Grandmother’s Hands; Racialzed Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies” Additionally courses online for clinical providers through his website. https://www.resmaa.com/books
The New York Times anti-racist book list for kids and teens: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/parenting/kids-books-racism-protest.html
Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us https://brenebrown.com/podcast/introducing-unlocking-us/
On Being with Krista Tippet interviewing Resmaa Menakem https://onbeing.org/programs/resmaa-menakem-notice-the-rage-notice-the-silence/
Goop Podcast on Environmental Racism with Rhiana Gunn-Wright https://goop.com/the-goop-podcast/why-we-need-to-talk-about-environmental-racism/
Saraj Gottstein is a lifelong Alaska and a clinical therapist at Alaska Behavioral Health. Saraj lives in Girdwood, AK.